Etihad Airways could make offer for Alitalia

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Rome - Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways could outline an offer to buy into troubled Italian carrier Alitalia on Monday, Italian media reported on Friday.

Etihad's chief executive James Hogan, who met Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday, also held closed-door talks in the transport ministry on Friday.

The reports said that Friday's meeting was “fruitful” and could lead to a letter of intentions from Etihad on Monday, when Alitalia is holding a board meeting.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP that it was “optimistic” to think an offer could be imminent but said the Renzi-Hogan talks were “a good sign”.

Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi on Tuesday said an assessment of Alitalia's accounts had been completed and hinted an offer from Etihad could be imminent.

The two companies have been in contact since December and in February they said they had entered a “final phase” in the process but Alitalia is laden with debts and negotiations have been hugely complicated.

Etihad is reportedly planning to take a stake of between 40 and 49 percent in the Italian carrier - below the 49.9 percent limit for non-European airlines.

Alitalia struck a deal with trade unions in February for cutting the equivalent of 1,900 jobs but some reports indicate Etihad may want more layoffs. - Sapa-AFP

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